Sociology of Childhood

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How the concept of Childhood has evolved over time

For this assignment I will explore the concept of childhood and how this has evolved over time across different societies, looking particularly at the role education has in childhood. I will also take a closer look at the different sociological perspectives of childhood and will use these to interpret children’s experiences in order to gain a greater understanding and knowledge of early childhood. I will explore how certain constraints of childhood have emerged over time and how these have shaped our knowledge and understating of children’s lives. What is childhood and when does it end?

“Childhood is a period of growth, that is to say, the period in which the individual, in both the physical and moral sense, dos not yet exist, the period in which he is made, develops and is formed” (Durkheim as quoted in Smart, Neale and Wade, the changing experience of childhood, 2001, Page 1) Philippe Aries, a French historian, is credited with making historians take childhood seriously. In his famous book ‘Centuries of childhood’ he claimed that childhood did not really exist until the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Before that, children had been treated as small and inadequate adults. He stated that they were often ill-treated, and that today we are now more careful about protecting children. Since then there has been lots of changes in the way people view the perception of childhood. “There have been many debates over the age that childhood ends from the Anglo-Saxons onwards. In the middle ages it was set at 12 years old, in the eighteenth century a girl of seven was hung or Norwich for stealing a petticoat” (Pinchbeck & Hewitt, Children in English Society, Volume 2, 1973, Page 351) There are many ages that some might say signifies the end of childhood, and when a person officially becomes an adult in the United Kingdom, for example: * Is it when the court of law states that a child cannot be tried in an adult court room when they are between 10 – 14 years old unless the prosecution can prove they knew that what they were doing was wrong (2010)? * Or when 18 year old has the right to purchase cigarettes and risk dieing from a fatal death of tobacco poisoning (2007)? * Or is it perhaps when you can make a legally binding pledge to remain with another person for life when you are 16 years old by getting married with parental permission or 18 years old without parental permission (1753)? * Or when you can legally have sexual intercourse and effectively bring a child into the world when you are 16 years old (1885)? * But you can be 15 years old to drink alcohol in private, 16 years old when dining in a restaurant and 18 years old to purchase alcohol yourself which holds the risk of alcohol poisoning amongst other illnesses, is it then? There are so many conflicting views on childhood, the more you research the idea, the more views you come across. As individuals views are often influenced by self conscious memories and experiences from early childhood. Childhood in different cultures...

Values are inborn in culture, containing sentimental symbols along with moral standards. Therefore, the concept of value enables us to grasp the link between both culture and identity, as cultures could not survive if people did not identify with them. Culture becomes a symbol of someone’s identity. A person feels most at home in a community when others believe in the same values as themselves. When someone belongs to a culture they distinguish themselves from other cultures by various signs that are often evident for example it may be their: language, accent, tone, clothing, food, social customs and codes. Socialisation theories...

Childhood is believed to be a social process of dialogue, meaning and interaction. As a result of this, the characteristics of children and childhood are not the same in different times and places. The ways in which children are...
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